Mayor Melton, you cannot be serious

by Staff Writer

Published: June 5,2006

“…go to hell.”

That’s a colorful quote from Jackson Mayor Frank Melton, isn’t it? The tough-on-crime crowd is excited because the Capital City’s my-way-or-the-highway CEO has taken such a high-profile approach to his job — shotguns, gold badges and bullet-proof accoutrement. And truth be told, the perception and/or reality of crime in Jackson is a critical part of the economic development process. It must be a priority.

I just wish that this particular quote from the Dear Mayor hadn’t caught the attention of the Eight Year Old and her devoted sidekick, the Five Year Old. They were passing through while the local news was on last week and tuned in just in time to watch a grown man act like a spoiled brat. The mayor, it seems, doesn’t care for the way the ol’ Clarion-Ledger is covering him. Actually, the newspaper’s reporters aren’t actually covering him. It’s his antics that are grabbing the headlines.

Is that fair? Probably not, but, and forgive the John Prine lyric here, that’s the way that the world goes around.

Sitting back

Let’s go back to the previous administration in Jackson. Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. was criticized by foes — and even friends — for being too slow, too methodical. He was a planner — not a leader, it was said. What about the results? It’s all about the results, we (yes, I was one of those people) sputtered.

Results, results, results. Send in a man of action. That’s where we find ourselves now, and I’m scratching my head about his latest round of actions.

Of course, it’s easy for me to sit back, watch this sideshow and spout off with my two cents. I live in Clinton. I drive home from this urban madness every afternoon. The last time I checked, crime was a fairly low priority (most of us seem to be focused on landing a Target) and our mayor isn’t uttering profanities on the evening news (she taught school and is a Baptist, for goodness’ sake).

Whatever.

The point is that, even as a metro suburbanite, I’m pro-Jackson and want it to emerge from the grip of violent crime, wasted lives and abject poverty. I had high hopes for the Melton administration, but in the last month or so, my faith has been fading.

Down to business

Mayor Melton can continue to wage a pointless war with the media, specifically, the Ledger — “We Buy Ink by the Barrel.”

Or, he could start acting like a grown-up, watch what he says and spend more time on the budget, economic development and instilling some confidence in the business community — assuring folks that he’s just as interested in tackling the city budget, repairing pot-holed roads and facilitating dialogue among the metro’s many stakeholders as he is in stopping a school bus for a hug.

OK, that was a cheap shot on my part, but that episode on Interstate 220 still has me wondering. Nonetheless, I’m confident that all hope isn’t lost. The mayor can step back from this abyss and turn things around — no matter how tenuous his credibility may be growing. I do wonder, though, how many times the mayor can take to the airwaves to apologize for his boorish behavior.

So, a final criticism: Mr. Mayor, that It-Wasn’t-Shredding-It-Was-Tearing argument on the public records requests? Please forgive one more borrowed line as I quote the great John McEnroe: You cannot be serious.

Contact MBJ editor Jim Laird at jlaird@msbusiness.com.

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